2nd March, 2017

A Personal Trainer's Opinion: "What makes a great one to one tutor?"

By Rachael S

Guest post contributed by Christopher Simon, who is a part time fitness coach & part time blogger at Origym.

As a Personal Trainer, I often teach people on a one to one basis. I have become accustomed to probing questions regarding my relationships with my students both inside and outside the confines of the gym. One of the most frequent questions I am asked is, “What is the most important part of being a one to one personal trainer?”

In fact, just the other night during a meal my wife arranged, her friend asked me this exact question.

I was initially reluctant to attend the dinner because of how it could disrupt my current diet plan. I was now even more reluctant to answer questions regarding work during my out of office hours…

Finding time to formulate an educated response, I decided to savour my mouthful of ‘spaghetti al forno’ for a little longer.

“I will get back to you on that”, I said.

The shock was almost instantaneous. The chance to indulge in intriguing conversation had passed. I had never been able to formulate a response because in all honesty I cannot articulate the different methodologies I use in the gym. I also cannot put these methodologies into a hierarchy of importance.

Each client is different, so I too have to be different at least 7 times a day. I couldn’t sum that up into one sentence without sounding arrogant. However, after having time to think about the question and the expansive nature of the answer I could not so eloquently explain, I now have a response.

During this article I will be drawing on influence from my own experiences as a one to one Personal Trainer and how they can be directly related to the work of any one to one tutor.

So, for the husband of my wife's friend, and for you, here is my answer to “what is the most important part of being a one to one tutor?”

You must recognise that each student is an individual.

This to me was one of the biggest realisations that I had when first beginning my career as a fitness coach. This is important because it will help you to understand the amount of work you actually have to do.

In my case, I had to create individual fitness plans, individual diet plans, individual personalities, fitness goals, anatomies and be able to understand different strengths and weaknesses for each client.

For example, if you are a guitar tutor, one student may have a goal to learn how to play fast, rock music, whilst another may be more focussed on classical acoustic. Despite the similarities in teaching basic techniques and musical theory, at a point you must be able to provide individualised learning plans for each student.

You will be required to juggle this information on a constant basis. As their tutor, your students will always look to you for guidance, advice and confirmation.

Understand that time is of the essence during a session.

Having a solid understanding of the time each activity will take is very important. Because a client pays you per hour or per session, they will expect to be put through their paces. You want your clients to leave a session feeling that they are progressing and achieving their goals.

If you spend too long on one aspect, instead of practicing it over multiple sessions, they may feel unfulfilled.

While I also recommend that you build a good rapport with your clients don’t make chit-chat the backbone of your sessions. You want to balance it nicely. I speak to my clients all the way through a session because it makes exercise much easier for them by taking the focus off the strain on their body.

However, I will talk to them only during exercise. You need to structure your sessions so that your client is always active and engaged. If they are not they will move on to another tutor who optimises their time within sessions.

However, this brings me onto my next point...

Build a good rapport with your clients.

While I think it is more important to create engaging and active lessons, I also think it is just as important to build a good rapport. You can have a good professional rapport with your clients and it is good that you and your client have a mutual understanding of what you both want out of your sessions. However, you don’t want to be a robot.

Why do business spend so much time picking a face to promote their latest product or service? It is because a face humanises the artificial nature of a company's strategy. You are the service and you can define how your clients deem this service through your rapport.

Being a one to one tutor requires a lot of communication. If you communicate effectively you will see the positive effect it has on your reputation and services.

Building a good lesson plan is integral

Throughout your career as a tutor you will be tasked with developing a multitude of lesson plans, revision plans and session structures.

You will have to cater these to either individuals or groups. There are many things that you have to take into account including which aspects of your subject you want to teach, what the client aims to learn and how to make it as engaging as possible.

Below I have shared an easy to follow guide on how to create and structure individual plans during your time as a one-to-one tutor. Use this example as a basis for your own students while not forgetting the other points I made beforehand.

Assess your clients' learning level

There are a number of ways that you can assess your client’s current level of understanding. For example, as a one to one personal trainer I have to understand the limits of my client’s fitness. It is only from there that I can develop a tailored lesson plan. When I first meet a newly assigned student, I seek to understand three things:

  • What experience my client already has?
  • What they want to learn as a student?
  • What they expect out of me as a tutor?

By asking these three questions you are able to create a conduit of communication and, most importantly, mutual understanding. It makes the process much easier and removes the initial awkwardness prevalent between a teacher and a new student. This can potentially hold even more true for language tutors who have to break the first barrier of communication.

My belief is it is best to meet up and talk one to one with a student because you are going to be meeting one to one for the remainder of your classes. However, other tutors prefer to develop digital questionnaires or survey’s to find out the same amount of information.

Test your client’s current practical level

Some tutors call this an induction. In many senses it is. It’s important to test the waters and see whether the client is comfortable. You also need to see if the student is capable and where your student’s starting point should be.

As a Personal Trainer I make sure any new clients go through a standardised fitness test. This gives me the opportunity to understand the client’s current limitations. From here on I can create a loose structure that aims to push these limitations.

As a guitar tutor you may ask your student to play a basic chord transition. You could ask them to play from G to B in a basic four beat rhythm. If they can easily do this you could ask them to play G to B and then to C. If your clients can’t complete this you know to start with the C chord. It is the same for anything else.

However, you need to make sure you celebrate an accomplishment of a student. This does not require you to lie. It requires you to be a motivator. Anyone likes to be commended and your clients are no different. Be constructive with your criticism but celebrate a clients step in the right direction

Work out your client’s goals

Once you have figured out the limits of your student’s knowledge for your subject you can begin to initiate a plan that sets an achievable pace for your client.

To develop a further understanding you should ask your student specific questions such as:

  • What are your goals?
  • What do you want out of this program?
  • Is it achievable?

Find more in-depth answers by asking deeper questions? Some questions to consider include:

  • Do you want to lose five pounds this month?
  • Do you want to develop a creative or journalistic writing style?
  • What are 5 songs you want to learn to play?

This additional information will support you when structuring the perfect plan for your students.

This is just a short plan that will help you develop a key understanding of your client, allowing you to create plans just for them. The more practice your client has and the more your student’s knowledge improves, the more you can implement.

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